The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
He had been told that he ought to shirk this question, but he was not afraid of his opinions, and did not think that any person could charge him with trimming because he believed his opinions to be unpopular. He was aware that Protection was unpopular, but he believed it was now in that state where arguments had been brought to bear on it from both sides. He believed that the ultimate victory would rest with Protection. It would be impossible, he believed, for a country with a small area like this to compete in the raw material with such countries as South America or British India. What were the absentees they heard of doing? Some of the early colonists who were residing in London, and were still drawing large sums from this colony, were sending their sons to the Argentine Republic to engage in pastoral pursuits. The Argentine Republic was progressing by leaps and bounds, and in a short time it would compete with them in wool. They were now improving their breeds there, and very soon they would produce wool equal to the best in any of the colonies. Talking about the value of wool, he showed that the exports had increased in quantity from 64 million lbs in 1877 to 90 millions in 1886, but that the values had fallen from £3,658,000 in 1877 to £3,072,000 in 1886. The severe competition would make the position of the colony from year to year worse than it had ever been before, and they must now reconsider their position. To take wheat as another example—in 1877 they exported grain to the value of £303,000, in 1881 to the value of £1,035,000, and in 1886 to £580,000. The very fluctuations in the Home market were enough to ruin our farmers. They made great preparations on the strength of a large demand, and then they found British India page 11 pouring its large supplies in the market, and the farmer was ruined. He would ask what prospect there could be in this colony for the export of raw material from this colony. They could not expect prosperity unless they employed their own people and brought in others, not by assisted immigration, but by voluntary immigration from other countries, so that our farmers might find a market for their produce at their own doors. That was the only hope for the country, and it was for that reason he was a Protectionist, (Applause.) They could see the prosperity of America Victoria, Germany, France, and all European countries that had adopted Protection. In the Nineteenth Century they would find an article giving the rate of progress in continental countries, and they would see that they were progressing so fast that they would soon be on a level with England, and what was the reason? Simply, that they insisted on having employment for their own people. People only left these shores because of the want of employment. He had tried in a partial way to solve the problem by drawing the people out and placing them on the land; but that would not do altogether. It was not everyone who could go on to the land, and they must provide for the people in the towns, and Protection was the only way, as far as he could see, by which it could be brought about. The farmers might be hostile to Protection for a time, but he could assure them that Protection was their best friend, and that they would find a home market more profitable than a foreign one. If he did not feel strongly on the question, and realise the necessities of the case, he might have kept the subject back for a future time. How was it that the price of land had fallen in value until it would hardly bring the price of the improvements placed upon it? Because they had been ruined by foreign prices, and the prices received for produce would not pay more than the land was now bringing. If they wanted to realise a better future, the question must be grappled with at once, as it was their only chance. (Applause.) With regard to the question of manufactures, great progress is being made. We have a certain amount of Protection at present; it had not been put on with any discretion or discrimination, but for revenue purposes. That Protection had done something to build up their industries was true, but what they wanted was a discriminating protection—sufficient to protect our manufactures and to enable others to be established. Taking the progress made in manufactures since 1878, they found that the total value of the land, buildings, machinery, and plant in that year was £3,051,720; For 1881 it was £3,605,471, and for 1886 £5,697,117, a considerable advance in value. (Applause.) The value of colonial industries produced in 1885 amounted to no less than £7,436,649, and the hands employed on these industries numbered 25,655, and probably these twenty-five thousand would mean direct support to 100,000 people, and possibly indirect support to an additional 100,000, as it was impossible to say where these ramifications ended. They would see what a wonderful effect the employment of the people in manufactures would produce on the prosperity of a community, and with proper encouragement and stimulus given by adequate protecton, these results could be accomplished.